A plausible account of the evolution of syntax is coming into view. I had almost despaired.
Most syntacticians (I believe) still hold the view that syntax must have come as an all or nothing package, a proposition I consider an evolutionary absurdity.
Second, even when it is discussed in evolutionary or biological contexts syntax is presented in syntactically formal terms that provides no clue as to how the formal operation can be translated into something important to natural selection.
Finally, I don’t believe syntax, as formally described, is much of a help to people when they are trying to figure out the best way to say something. I know that whenever I give editorial advice, I talk about a completely different set of issues from technical discussions about moving phrases, etc. The formal system is great for mechanical operations in which the machine has no awareness of what it is doing, but does not really address the experience of using language. If editing really worked best at the unconscious level, all these thoughts about helping the reader follow along should just get in the way. Instead, they help get it right.
At the same time, syntax is obviously important and has to be accounted for. “Syntax” was one of the original categories for posting on this blog, but I have long doubted that I would have much to report. Lately, however, things are looking more promising. I am especially encouraged by a paper, “Sex and Syntax” (here) by Ljiljana Progovac in the current Biolinguistics.